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Do you believe some of the myths surrounding the go-to-market funnel?
If you’re wondering whether or not what you believe IS actually a myth, Amy Kohl, CEO and founder of AK Operations, is here to clear those up for you and for CEO and founder of Greaser Consulting, Jordan Greaser.
She also shares her expertise on when to hire, when to slow down, when to keep running lean and the achieving alignment between marketing and sales.
Hi, everyone, this is Jordan, the owner and CEO of Greaser Consulting. On this call; we have Amy with us, who I met years ago. And she was just dominating a presentation on sales effectiveness and funnels and everything else, and have always just been impressed by the work that she does. She’s going to talk today a little bit about myths in the go-to-market funnel, when to hire, when to slow down, when to keep running lean. But really just talking about the concept of marketing and sales alignment as it relates to getting touches: what does that look like? Who is in charge of that? Who builds the list? That’s what we go through today. And, you know, Amy, Amy and I sort of come from two different worlds tackling the same problem. So there’s some places that we line up really good. There’s other ways that, like, we might think a little differently about it. But by and large, I just have a lot of respect for Amy in the work that she does. And I know you’re going to enjoy hearing her perspective on today’s call. With that, let’s dive in.
Say you want some clarity in sales and marketing and SEP? Well, we have just the remedy: our podcast, RevOps Therapy. Yeah.
Hi everyone, this is Jordan, and we’ve got Amy with us. Amy, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself?
Hey guys, I’m Amy Kohl. I’m the founder and CEO of AK Operations. We are a fractional, I like to say female powerhouse of sales enablement, fractional teammates to some of our clients, some of the best sales teams in the country, actually.
You mentioned that; I remember meeting you at Sapper’s headquarters, and you’re in there doing some, like this is when I was like early in my business; we were still trying to figure out what we do. And we’re like, well, we could do some sequences, right? We could put something together. And then I see you in a boardroom giving this presentation about this whole funnel, all the metrics, the exact conversions, here’s the attribution. Here’s what’s next. And then you come out and I’m like, “Well, that was pretty cool.” And then you show me this list of customers where like, “here’s the data for every single customer.” And I’m like, I’m like, “someday when I grow up. I’d like to be Amy, like, that was that moment for me; someday I’d like to be Amy.” But yeah, I mean, I’ve always been impressed by the work you do. Yeah. You got something here?
No, you’re so sweet. Like, Jordan, that was a fun day, though. But you’re right. Like the whole purpose of that presentation. This is I think when people appreciate it. Clearly, you did, like just as a series of base hits, right? Like, everyone approaches a board meeting or a sales conversation, like, what’s the home run of the quarter, and it’s like, that’s not real; like, these base hits are real and breaking down the funnel like that is kind of the secret sauce of our approach. So glad it landed, landed your infinity for us.
Well, that’s what I was like, it was right then in there. And I was like, okay, like I said, “Someday when I get big, I’d like to be like Amy, like, that’s my, that’s my goal.” Oh my, but that’s too that’s, that’s too kind to get this started. So we’re going to talk about go-to-market myths today. Right, and just a couple of things that people just tend to think a little differently about. And Amy, I know you and I like, you’re kind of, I don’t want to, like, label you as marketing because you’re more than marketing. But in some ways, like we do two different things, but in the same ballgame, right? And so a, a thing that comes up all the time in our world is just around this, like should we go out now? Like like “Is now the time let’s hire 20 people? Let’s hire 50 people? Or do we like lean more on systems? Or do we lean more on intent data? Like what, like, what’s this world, especially with like product-led growth becoming really big right now?” Like, like, what are your thoughts around this whole idea?
So… Well, there’s two things, and I talk about this a lot when I’m meeting prospects even for our company: the first one I’m like, there’s two trains of thought when you’re building out the go-to-market team on internally, like you either hire for a process or you hire into a process so when you’re hiring for one you’re putting all your eggs in this so-called a quote unquote I know there’s there’s no video but Rockstar, who’s going to come in and they’ve done this at this company and led this billions of dollars of growth for that company. But, but your, your all your eggs are in that person’s basket. And like when it comes to scaling the sales team particularly like you can get up you can get four rock stars and four bozos all at the same time if you scale too fast, and if there’s not a very clear system. You, you don’t actually have a well-oiled machine yet. So I encourage our teams always stay leaner longer by leveraging some smarter automation, and we have more of a paint-by-numbers process. And you mean, you know this, you’ve obviously been a contributor to at one point, you did things differently than the guy that you sat next to. And your rates look different. Your conversion, your conversations went differently. And some of these somehow our teams that (we support smaller companies than you do), but that that’s, that could be detrimental to their business that they do that wrong. So yeah, I mean, big sales teams don’t necessarily hit big sales numbers; lean sales teams can hit just as big sales numbers as long as their, their systems are in place. And that process is already built.
So what’s interesting about that, though, is I I remember one of, one of our like, when I was back at Outreach, and you know, Outreach was hyper-growth and all these things. One of the big commentaries of that sales leader at the time was, was like we took too long to hire. And his big thing was like, like, we wanted everything to be perfect before we hired everybody. And so as you go in, and you talk with people, and I’m not, I’m not like disagreeing with you here. But where do you, how do you help find that line of like, well, no, now you’ve waited too long? Or on that flip side of like, well, no, like, you’re just not ready. Like, what’s the process of discovery there, so that you don’t fall too far on either side of that?
I mean, Jordan, the thing you referenced earlier, like the first time you met me when we’re measuring the base hits, if you have if, if I’m presenting the base hits of cold leads to engagers, engages to meetings, and our meetings to deals or opportunities, and then our wins. If we have, if all things are green, and then we’re bottlenecked at opportunity to win. I don’t know that that’s like we have a closing properly. But my point is, when we’re just benchmarking each spot of the whole pipeline, we know where to double down and focus on versus how many times as a sales leader said, yeah, they might say, “Oh, we don’t have this perfect yet.” But I also really appreciate a sales leader that says, “I’m going to do this right first so we can illustrate, like the go-to-market plan, or the strategy or the playbook for my upcoming sales team behind me.” Because if you hire before anyone’s done it, it makes it very difficult to set the right expectations. And honestly, it’s nothing’s, nothing’s more, more defeating than coming in and seeing, seeing nobody hit their number. I want to know that people have attained quota; I want to know that they’re hitting their numbers. And they’re doing it and they’re being enabled to, to do that. So I don’t know; you don’t want to hold on too long. But if all those conversion metrics and those base hits are green, it’s go time. But if you have a bottleneck from meeting booked, to, to qualified opportunity, you’re not ready yet. Or if you’re not winning, if you have a closing problem, you may not be ready yet either.
Do you have like baseline numbers when you’re consulting with folks like this is the one size fits all? If you’ve made it over this metric in this area, you are now ready.
Yeah, Jordan. Great question. So after doing this for 100 clients, now we’ve looked; there’s really four go-to-market strategies each of our clients have. So on our kickoff, we kind of identify it based on like, really, there’s like three key variables like, what’s the TAM of this target audience? Like how big does this client, how big can this client go? What are the cycle times typically look like or how many members of the buying team? We kind of, helps us identify like how long it’s going to take to close. And then is this a founder-led sales organization, a built-out team, or kind of like a group like they’re in the midst of scaling, and they have a lean few sales reps? Those three things really help us identify what baseline conversion rates to set for my team. And that’s what the women on my team are held accountable for, to our client, and to me, and when a team has, you know, something in the red, it’s very apparent, and we know where to focus for the next seven days in between our next check-in with that client. I was just going to say with without that baseline of like what good even looks like we always launch with our best guess based on what other clients have done in their similar like go-to-market strategy. And then we benchmark ourselves against it every seven days. The goal is, I always talk about this, we just have to get better, better than the week before. It doesn’t have to be like double our conversion goals. It’s like if we can get 1% better, that’s a huge one. If we can get a quarter, a quarter of a percent better, that’s a big one too. Like just the forward momentum is what you’re looking for at those seven-day check-ins.
How much time do you allow? Let’s say we identify that the meeting booked to qualified opportunity is the bottleneck. How much time do you sort of coach to the system you have to if like if it’s not increasing like we need to rebuild that part of the system because like this is a systemic failure at this point versus like, let’s coach them to get better?
Yeah, that’s a good question. Sometimes I think this is probably one of the myths. If you’re not seeing the meetings calm or the deals populate, how many sales leaders come in, they’re like, “Q1 #$%* sucks;” time to flip everything on its head. We’re doing everything different.”? And next thing you know, you’ve pivot away from probably four things at work, because one thing didn’t. And so if you take that one thing, and then maybe what we’re doing is we’re tweaking it or like shifting it. We can do that in like seven days, and like the seventh probably… honestly, the answer your question more of like a two-week runway is what we need to know to see if those meetings are converting better. But at the end of the day, if you’re looking at the right exit criteria for meeting booked to SQL, did they attend? Is it a member of the buying team? Are they looking to move forward within a reasonable timeframe? If that gap, that gap consistently stays there, do we know? Did we just not run a sequence long enough? Was our sequence too short? Was it too soft? Like we just actually joined, this was pretty cool, too. And I’ll share this data with you that my team has from our 2021 clients. We ended up running like, like sequence velocity metrics; we ended up finding out was in HubSpot and a lot of our environments we were able to build, build this easier, a lot easier. What we did is say, of our meetings booked, which sequence email did they book on? And what number was it in the steps, and we end up finding out is like one of our highest velocity like fastest turning pipelines was produced off the first two emails. So rather than keeping those people in the sequence for three, four or five more steps, we got four times more people in the sequence with only a two-step push. And it made a drastic difference in their pipeline generated for Q4 last year.
But Amy, it takes between eight to 12 touches. But it takes between eight to 12 touches.
No, I know, I know that I know it does. But that’s in lieu, in my opinion with marketing. And who’s to say, and listen to say that those people weren’t already in a long, long a$$ seven, eight, ten sequence? But what if I could tell it, tell you like 80% of your meetings get booked in the first two emails in the sequence, after they follow five or six marketing touches? Imagine how many more people you can get active in sequence.
So what I, what I like, on what you’re touching on is ultimately like you want to talk about a myth is create it or set it and forget it. Right? Like that’s one of the biggest myths out there. Because that’s, you know, believe it or not, that’s one of the things that my company gets into is we’ll go in and we’ll do a content audit. This is more on the sales side, use it in Outreach or Salesloft, right, like we’ll check out one of these things. And like people think the big goal is to build the content. And then okay, now just funnel everybody in. And to your point, like we’ll get into one sequence. Yeah, it’s dynamite. But you know, at step six, we’ll get into another one that like the first two steps are fantastic. And then the rest is either unsubscribe or no response. So we’re like wasting time. And so, again, in the heart of talking about myths, it’s a myth to think that once you’ve figured it out once it’s just done, right?
Who says that those 13 touches need to be from your sole single one dude sequencer, like, how much better… and this is where you and I might throw down a little bit. And I welcome it. But who’s to say that the like, you don’t add depth to the team if you’re marketing and sales team, this is like, why I’m pretty passionate about this. As the prospect, if I’m hearing from Amy at marketing, and she’s given me all this content that matters to me whether I do business with them or not. And then I start to hear from sales guy, Jordan, and I’m like, “Oh, damn, I just read that blog. I’m gonna read this, actually read this email; I might give this dude my time,” like, so those 13 touches to me, don’t all, they’re not all on Jordan. They’re on the company; they’re on the brand. And I think that’s why I, why, why my team’s like trying to solve this, this problem in a little bit more holistic company strategy. Because if we’re not serving before you start to sell, we’re not received as well. But if we nurture the database, and we care for them, and we really do put, like, legitimate time and effort into educating our prospects before we start to, like, put them on the sales pursuit, our conversion goes so much better. And then those 13 touches are hit, are hit a lot, a lot more seamlessly and less like sales-centric. Instead, it’s more consultative.
Yeah, I’m not against what you’re saying. Um, and that’s, there’s a, this is what I’ve seen as an evolution in the space. Okay, in 2015 when I started, and I don’t think Outreach is going to want to claim me for saying this, okay, well, listen, I was the I was like the SDR early on and listen, for everybody who gets all these emails, it just gets right at them. Like, I’d like to personally apologize to you right now. But the reality was the technology wasn’t out there to like, do that really well, really quickly. And so it was literally as easy as like, get as many people in, and like, let’s just spray it, pray it. And then like, here we go. And I mean, it worked, like that reality is it worked. How do I know it worked is because I wrote the content, and I’m terrible at writing content. And we still got amazing results, right? We use the, here’s a fun fact, we use the same sequence from 1 million to $30 million in revenue to book all of that pipeline. I’m not kidding you. I wrote it in one weekend with a guy named Alex. And that was it; that was the sequence we used. We tried to deviate and tried different ones: didn’t work. But here’s the deal. I’m saying that not as like some proof point to say, Amy, you’re wrong. I’m saying that to say that does not work anymore. The landscape has drastically shifted; you have to be a lot more intelligent in the way you work. And that’s why I’m saying this to say I’ve seen a massive movement. Like, originally when marketing saw that there’s the sales engagement platforms, like wait a minute sales is writing their own content? There was like panic attack, finally, for the right reason, right? Because people like me, we’re gonna come along, and let’s just scorch the earth, right? But now, there’s been a, I think this is a good thing. Okay. There’s been a huge movement for like marketing and sales, what we call it at our company, is to build a content supply chain, where we’re going to create a feedback loop between these two worlds and systems. So we’re doing things intelligently. Not stupidly. So I think maybe four years ago, maybe when you first met me, we would have fought but not today. I’ve been enlightened, Amy.
Welcome. I mentioned, you got rockstars and bozos, like we’re particularly like, we, we work with a lot of great incredible sales leaders that are trying to build out their team. And for every Rockstar, sometimes a bozo gets in there. And imagine, imagine that person being responsible for all 13 touches on behalf of your company. You know, like, think about like, if they don’t have, you know, somebody like you or I, or a partnership, like you or I, and they just hand them Outreach. That, that’s where I think when I’m learning, and this is what I’m seeing, as I as our clientele and our clients needs have evolved in the last couple of years, is they, we can find what messaging will produce the meetings and the pipeline; we can find it pretty quickly. Now now. Now, what they don’t understand is not only do I have the right messaging, I have these this headcount, and this kind of going back to leaner longer to how do I teach them how to use Outreach and use or use Salesforce and HubSpot, so they understand who to deploy and when, and what’s kind of bada$$ about HubSpot, for example, for where 80% of our clients are. We’re like in the control, like we’re driving the control panel now Jordan; it’s like VP of Sales approves the message, the targets; VP of Marketing and VP of sales collab on, approve our sales sequence, then we deploy it based on territory, or whatever lead assignment; it is per rep. So I can make sure I’m giving Jordan and Amy equal opportunity to hit their quota because I’m feeling I’m in control of fueling their funnel. So then it’s not a matter of “well, you didn’t sequence enough people to hit your number; that’s on you, sales rep;” the control panel’s doing it, and then it’s up to them to operate. And to convert the pipeline.
Let me ask you about this. This is my like, this may not need to be a concern. Okay. What I’m hearing from you, and I might be hearing this incorrectly, is now there’s a big push even for like rep satisfaction in the job is some level of autonomy, to be creative, do something unique. And I think there’s an important, there’s an important pushback or thing that occurs. It’s called automation fatigue, where like, every step of the workflow has become so automated, that I no longer think and since I no longer think, like I’m actually like, I become a worse salesperson because I’m not actually thinking about what to do and when. And so when I’m hearing you talk about this, like is automation fatigue a concern of yours? Like where does autonomy of the rep come into this? How does that play together?
So this is how… this is the email, the email is not the part to, I want to put the reps in the position to have conversations. And if I can take care of the approved copy and content for their… now remember, they have their target accounts they need to self-hunt too. But the other 90% of people, their sequencing needs to be kind of this controlled to meet and for our clients anyway, because again, I serve very, I serve smaller leaner teams; it needs to be controlled messaging, it just needs to be on a cadence. Now, keep in mind, my teams are also calling after engagement, so I wouldn’t want them… I don’t want them to call on Tuesday, because today’s Tuesday and this is the second step of my sequence. So today, I’m gonna call; they don’t call until they engage first. So to your point about automation fatigue; that’s when they feel it. They’re like “dammit, yesterday was a heavy send day; today’s gonna be a heavy call day.” Like that’s what’s defeating. And trust me, I know sales reps, sales reps are looking for the jobs that don’t just have the highest base or the highest OTE; they’re looking for, I think I honestly believe and I’ve seen this in a lot of our recruiting conversations, they also want to work for, for companies that are investing in enabling them too. And so you hire them to have conversations; you do not hire them to build robust, targeted lists, and to deploy sales sequences. You hire them to have conversations. And if I can point you, if if I’m the control panel, and I’m responsible for fueling the 90% of what you’re targeting, and your response for your 10, that your 10% that you’re hunting, I’m going to tell you to call folks; you’re going to get the tasks to call folks, after they engaged a level of intent that’s worthy of your manual effort. And that’s what, that’s what you’re getting 10 to 15% connect rates. Like, I don’t know how else a rep can… I don’t know how else our rep’s going to have high connect rates and cover the amount of time that they typically need to do when they’re, when you have a sales team that’s under you know, 10 people; it’s gonna be tough, be really tough. And I don’t know if you noticed this too, Jordan, but I see more pipeline close after the third or like you sequence one time, maybe you ask for referrals still ghosted; we have more people converting on our third attempt. And most of the time companies just move on; they lose track of that.
Oh, we used to, we used to tell people that that hasn’t changed. I’d have reps come to me and say “well, I put this person in a sequence six months ago, like I can’t target them again.” I’m like, “trust me, you think way too highly of yourself. Okay. Like they don’t remember your name at all.” And they’re like, “No, come on, whatever.” And then sure enough, second, third sequence, whatever. Like that’s what it would typically be, be better, right? Maybe there’s some familiarity that, that breaks in there. I don’t know.
You were going to say something about the automation fatigue, about the call steps.
Again, I think we’re less at war than you thought you would be. Because just yesterday, I was working with somebody. And I said “listen, like this is not how Outreach would have you work this; like they’re just gonna tell you put these people in call this step to this next step. Like look, scroll through your list, see everybody that’s actually engaged, pull them out of this, like generic, automated, whatever. And since they’ve engaged like to go do something of real value now. Like, send them a video, right? Like, like getting it because they’re actually engaging with your stuff, the likelihood of you like writing something customized, doing a video, since they’re going to view it, like now your time is going to be much more well spent. So like, let’s not just keep them in the ether of this, like blind automation.”
100%. Agree. Yeah, well, like you may have fewer call tasks, for sure, because you’re not gonna call everybody but if you wait to call the 20% that open, and then you make, let’s say you sort and three of them are like tier two accounts, make a quick Loom video for those three, drop that in their LinkedIn, send them a call, then call them, call them twice. Like, that’s how you make automation enable the reps; like the goal is not to replace their brains, the play, the goal is to make sure that they’re paying attention to the right people at the right time. And they’re actually relevant in what they’re saying.
So how do you reconcile that though, of like, okay, you have a, you have a control center of like, your VP of Marketing, VP of Sales is sort of loading the buckets, right? And then you, you have, let’s say, a scaling team. So now we’re starting to get bigger, like we do need to start hiring. And you know, you’re talking about rockstars and bozos and everything in between. Well now, like, we need to have some measurement, because we know in the funnel that we’re going to book this many meetings, are going to come to this many things. And so there’s always this attempt to like, let’s also call it like quantify activity. If you send this many emails, you do this many calls, and you run people through this, many of this many people in sequence put in at this rate, like, then we’re going to, like complete this funnel all the way to the beginning. And so well, yeah, so on the one hand, I’m hearing this like, really systematic process from you, like, start to finish. But then on the other hand, I’m hearing, but it’s not always gonna be like, do your calls; it’s not always gonna be or whatever. So how do you keep a machine alive, if you’re also including, like this level of flexibility and adjustment and shifting?
Well, by Rep, you can benchmark the executed number of activities. So if I can say, for Shelby, I need, you know, five market, Shelby books most of her pipeline off of five marketing emails, two sequences, for a total of eight touches, and seven calls, call steps. But then I have another girl on my team that’s doing, you know, half those call steps. And she also has half the, half the pipeline, like, the reality of it is, it’s the combination of marketing touches, to sales touches, and then the main, the human intervention, and the effort that the reps are putting behind those that engage or those that express intent. And then you can get even trickier and like narrow it down by channel like, should, like, if we, this is my favorite thing to pull; we’re 45 days into the quarter. And we need, we have a gap of let’s say, $20,000 in close revenue, what’s our Hail Mary play that we can do that we have enough days to get in within a reasonable cadence, the number of activities it takes to close a deal. That is the most fun, like, analysis to do and in a client’s environment and be able to say, “Okay, we’re going to target these, this title, here’s the sequence. Here’s like, here’s our Hail Mary play. And, you know, Rockstar rep, you’re gonna do three activities against these guys in the next two weeks.” And we’ll, we will almost always, if not, ever time come very close or close that gap. And it’s, it’s not until you understand how to pair the automation to the enablement side, that you can buy the trust of our teams, because, yeah, my term sales reps think no, I’m great, because I call it; I hit my number because I’m great. Yeah, because you’re great at conversations. I find myself, Jordan, in so many conversations for sales leaders, like why didn’t Amy hit her number? Well, she enrolled like 100 people in sequence this month. That’s why; like, why are we talking about that stuff? Why are we talking about admin tasks that we’re putting on our, you know, pretty expensive salespeople? I’m tired of it, so just don’t do it. We don’t need to do it anymore. And if our, if our systems, if our process isn’t evolving with the systems that, that they released these types of capabilities, and we’re doing them wrong.
The pushback I hear to that, though, and I’ve, I’ve seen that work. So like anybody listening, what Amy’s talking about, I’ve seen this work. So I’m not I’m not saying “hey, this is ridiculous.” What I am saying though, is I will actually get pushback. Ironically, like you’re talking about sort of rep empowerment here; I’ll get pushback from reps that say “I want to manifest the destiny of my own list.” Right? Of like, “I want to choose the people; you hired me because I’m talented in what I do. So I’m gonna go chase it my own way.” And you know, the heart of what you’re saying and the heart of what the rep saying is the same thing of, I’m hiring a talented person to do really good work, right? But the rep is saying, as a result, give me that stinking list to build myself and you’re over there saying “don’t waste your time.” So like, what’s the conversation you have here?
When I have a rockstar rep, and we do, like actually, I was just on-site with one of them. One of our clients that’s local here in St. Louis this week, and he was saying, “I have 20 tier one accounts. But I have eight people on each, eight members of the buying team. This is going to take me all quarter to do” and rather than putting all his eggs in his tier one accounts basket, I’m going to supplement him with tier two, tier three, tier four. They never say no to that. And I’m not saying they don’t hunt; reps should always have a target account. They’re hunting and grooming, and those are typically the bigger ones. But and again, if they’re rockstars, that’s where they want to spend their time. They don’t want to go chase the $10,000 annual contracts; they want to chase the $50, $60, $70, $100,000 contracts. In my opinion, my experience and also this is why I like when we meet our clients a lot of times or founder-led sales organizations, we work out the initial kinks with them. And then you had they hire one or two people to kind of replace the CEO or the founder and let them go off and do their real job. And then we, we grow the company with that proof point. And luckily, all of our stuff is measurable. And if because of it, it makes it so much easier to earn their trust. They don’t… we don’t throw down with reps very often at all. I tell you, like, when we’re 45 days in the quarter, and we’re able to give them like their best chance at closing their gaps, there’s nothing better than winning their trust that way.
All right, Amy, we’re… you’ve made a believer; we’re right at time today. I can’t, I don’t have time to fight you some more. We’ll have to do this another time. But I just want to say I appreciate you coming on. Thanks for being with me today. And for everybody listening. We hope you enjoy this. Listen, Amy’s fantastic. Reach out to her if you’re, if your team needs help, and you want to work with… what did you describe your team? You… like your ladies? They’re like what?
I call them sharp chicks. They’re like 10 bada$$, sassy women that are really good at what they do.
Alright, so if that, if that’s the team that you’re looking to work with, Amy’s your girl, and that’s, those are the, your what do you call them? Sharp sassy ladies.
Sharp chicks. Yeah, yeah. Jordan, listen, thank you. You’re so good too. I just appreciate your friendship and everything.
Well, as they say, stay out of trouble, Amy.
I will. Bye.
Hot dog. That was a great episode. Thanks for listening. If you want to learn more about Greaser Consulting or any information you heard on today’s episode, visit us online at www.greaserconsulting.com. Be sure to click the Follow button and the bell icon to be notified on the latest here at RevOps Therapy. Thanks and see you real soon.